Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘planning

Learning More

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Last night we attended a community education class in River Falls on the topic of planning when to initiate receiving Social Security payments. As you might imagine, it was rich with fascinating detail and enticing facts. Yawn.

One of the highlights of the night was the series of images used for the presentation, collected from years of marketing literature received by the instructor for his financial planning business. He pointed out the universal themes on marketing materials from a wide array of retirement industry service providers shows happy, swooning gray-haired couples on beaches wearing light-colored linen clothes.

He seemed to have amassed an endless supply of these images and has devised a keen way of getting additional use out of the photos.

One aspect of importance he conveyed was the total amount of money ultimately available if certain choices are made. Make a different choice, you end up getting less money in the end.

So what? That parameter of maximizing the total dollars collected over time does not hold much allure for me.

If by the end of 25-years, when I’m in my mid-to-late 80s, whether my total amount received ends up plus or minus $20K seems an illogical parameter on which to prioritize. More important to me is whether I will have enough income month to month to cover my expenses.

Especially when the length of time I will be collecting is not a given. Why set a goal to collect the most money possible by the time I reach 85-years when the timing of my demise is not guaranteeable?

I tend to spend within my means, so if I have less money, I spend less.

All this planning would sure be a lot easier if I knew what my medical expenses will be as I age. Something tells me the discs in my lower back won’t become less of an issue in my eighties.

When we walked out to the parking lot of the high school in the dark after the session, there weren’t many cars remaining. A woman in front of us climbed into the only car parked in the front row. That created a problem for us, because we had parked in the front row. Where was Cyndie’s car? It made no sense.

I walked closer to read the license plate on the car despite the headlights shining in my eyes and recognized them as Cyndie’s. About the same time, the woman was discovering the car she was in didn’t look anything like hers.

Somehow, though Cyndie claims she didn’t do anything, as we approached, our lights came on and the woman in front of us assumed it was her car responding to her fob, so she climbed into Cyndie’s Honda. The woman’s Subaru was out of view in the adjacent spot beyond ours, in the second row.

We all had a good laugh over the confusion.

This kind of thing happens when aging minds are preoccupied with planning for our eventual financial scenarios.

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Written by johnwhays

October 2, 2019 at 6:00 am

Mental Mixups

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I’m not sure how a person can know when they are actually at the top of their game, but I have a pretty good idea when I’m not achieving peak performance out of my mind. The shortcomings have come in series for me lately in a repeating pattern that is becoming difficult to miss.

Although, missing things is one of the shortcomings I am noticing. The thing with that is, it makes me suddenly wonder if there are other things I missed when individual errors pop up. It gets my mind all mixed up.

Is any of this related to the song stuck in my head since Sunday morning? While making breakfast that morning, I heard Kris Kristofferson’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee.” Later in the afternoon, while I was mowing the lawn, it was Janis Joplin’s voice “ear-worming” over and over in my mind.

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Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…

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I found it interesting that my mind jumped to Janis’ version, but not that surprising. It’s the one I’ve heard the most. What seems odd to me is how long it has hung around.

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I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday…

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Then my poor brain got stretched into next year. Did you know 2020 is a leap year and Christmas will be on a Friday?

(Just to emphasize my point, while writing that, I asked Cyndie if she knew 2020 is a leap year. She said, “You already asked me that an hour ago.”)

One of my challenges with the day-job is the need to function far from the immediate moments and plan the future. Yesterday I was forced to print out a calendar for 2020 to assign dates into January. No wonder my mind gets mixed up.

It’s a wonder I ever know what day it is.

On the way home from work yesterday, I forgot to get gas in the car.

I sure hope I haven’t forgotten anything else important this week.

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No Ropes

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No nets, no map, no ropes, no guarantees. I saved the rented movie, “Free Solo” for Cyndie to see when she got home and I watched it again last night so we could experience the fascinating drama together. It is really a moving portrait of multiple levels of the story about Alex Honnold’s quest to climb El Capitan without ropes.

I’m left with a vivid impression of how the uncertainty dramatically exposed by climbing deadly heights without ropes is present to varying degrees in every moment of our lives. The deadly risks may not be so intense, but the uncertainty is, whether we realize it, or not.

Humans make our plans and celebrate when things go right, but things go wrong just as easily.

I think sports competition for entertainment taps into a relatively safe dance with that uncertainty. Both sides might plan to succeed, but there will always be something to foil the best-laid plans of one of the teams or individuals involved. We, as spectators, can live vicariously through the drama and for a time escape the real-life uncertainties about the outcome of our plans for tomorrow.

Will I make it to work on time? Will the weather be a problem? Will there be a surprise test?

No guarantee, except for the uncertainty. That’s inherent.

A tire could blow out. An unexpected storm could pop up. And, yes, there might be a test. You can use your notes.

I don’t know what we are going to do next with Wintervale Ranch. When this all started, we had a plan, but only a vague map, no ropes, a small net, and definitely no guarantees.

We were free soloing.

The future is uncertain, but the possibilities are enticing.

Watching the documentary of Alex Honnold’s dramatic success at the high-risk endeavor of climbing about 3000 feet (900 m) without ropes to save him if he falls was very inspiring.

We are energized for exploring new opportunities in the year ahead and feeling a heightened awareness of the uncertainties we navigate every day. Since they are always present, it makes sense to fortify our abilities to accept, adapt, and respond to whatever comes our way.

Given a comparison to clinging to a sheer rock face thousands of feet off the ground, coping with our challenges at ground level seems almost harmless.

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Written by johnwhays

September 17, 2019 at 6:00 am

Picture Stories

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How much of the story can a picture convey? That depends on many things, but in this case, I have to say this image fails to depict all of the pertinent details.

I expect it is obvious that some painting occurred here. The deck of Cyndie’s parents’ house was redone recently and as a finishing touch (which wasn’t in the job plan) the contractor added a new baseboard. The guy made a run to a lumber retailer to purchase the wood, installed it, and left the task of painting it to the homeowners.

Cyndie and I are spending the weekend here so Cyndie could accompany her mom to an outpatient appointment, and then battle mightily to persuade Marie to convalesce long enough for an incision to heal. There was no sign of any slowing down upon their arrival home yesterday. Her mom was lifting things and bending over to reach into low cupboards as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

For my part, and relating more to the image above, I was able to contribute by tending to this minor nuisance of unfinished wood. I learned about the project at breakfast, when Fred checked on my availability and announced he had masking tape and the spray paint at the ready.

I’m not really a spray paint guy, but how hard can it be? I ruffled through the bag of meager clothing I’d packed for the weekend to find a shirt I wouldn’t mind getting paint on and opted for shorts and bare feet to tackle the job. Unfortunately, I failed to consider that the composite boards would get as hot as beach sand in the beating sun while I was out there.

I thought it would be a nice “present” for Marie if the job happened while she was unaware, so I started as soon as possible after they departed for her appointment and strove to push my pace in hopes of making quick work of the job. Despite the occasional breeze. While keeping one eye on the day-job email account. Stopping to take a call from the pest control guy who was searching for our window well back home.

After I gave out a credit card number authorizing the plan to trap a suspected woodchuck in Beldenville, it was time to commit myself to my own entrapment on the deck. The new baseboard ran beneath the sliding door to the house, so when I applied tape and paper across that opening, I was stuck until the paint was applied.

About that point, my back muscles started to twinge. Then, my feet and knees started to burn. Then, the spray paint started to drip around the nozzle. I’d not prepared properly for dripping from the can. All I had available was some of the used newspaper to try wiping up.

I didn’t think about what accumulating paint around the nozzle would do when following the instructions to continually shake the can throughout the painting.

I didn’t know it would be hot enough that I would start dripping sweat.

Alas, I survived, everything was cleaned up before Marie and Cyndie arrived home, and the deck looks appropriately finished.

There are pertinent details which that image above definitely does not convey.

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Written by johnwhays

September 7, 2019 at 8:14 am

Making Plans

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We are not going to the lake this weekend, but we do have Anna coming to stay at our house to take care of Delilah, Pequenita, and the chickens for a few days. Our plans are more along the lines of the stay-cation in the cities with family and friends variety. That involved a fair amount of pre-planning for my little brain last night.

We will be staying at Cyndie’s parents’ house, which facilitates my heading there directly from work this afternoon and remaining there through Sunday night to go back to work again on Monday morning. That was a lot of days to think through in advance. Makes it feel a little more like a vacation, so that’s fun.

Too bad I don’t enjoy packing for vacations. Somehow, I find a way to get over it.

I’m feeling fussy over other plans we are concurrently trying to form, having to do with needed upkeep of the logs of our home, the consideration of quotes arriving for re-doing our deck, and now our need for some assistance with wild animal control services.

Early returns indicate the costs of each are running in the neighborhood of 2-3 times the price of our desired budget. One, or more, will likely have to wait, and logic tells me it won’t be the animal control.

I’m thinking I may end up honing my [lack of] carpentry abilities and replace the deck boards myself. The logs will likely wait until next year, and we could very well end up applying the recommended two coats of wood protection ourselves to avoid the huge expense quoted yesterday.

For a person who doesn’t like making plans or even decisions, for that matter, these issues coming up all at once are a dreary burden of responsibility. It makes me long to be 5 or 6 years old again.

Those were blissful days…

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Written by johnwhays

September 5, 2019 at 6:00 am

My Turn

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Today it is my turn to join the club of 60-year-olds. Sixty years ago today I showed up as the latest addition to the Hays clan. Luckily, we tend toward not remembering our moment of arrival, but I bet I was kicking and screaming until that warm blanket swaddled me tightly. By my calculations, I have just completed a third stint of becoming a twenty-year-old.

I’m pretty confident that I am twenty years smarter than I was when I reached forty.

I will always remember the spectacular celebration of my fortieth birthday, because my life-long chum, Paul Keiski, and I combined our adjacent birthdays with a plan to thwart our wives trying to hold a surprise party for us. We announced a plot to do a nighttime 40-mile bike ride figuring nobody would be crazy enough to participate.

Turned out there were a lot more crazy people than we accounted for, so a fabulous group night-ride became an annual necessity for years after. That night when Paul’s birthday ended and mine started, we decided we had each ridden 20 moonlit miles by that point, so together, forty had been achieved.

Now, twenty years later, we gave in and let our wives plan a celebration event. I fear it may dwarf either of our weddings in terms of their efforts to prepare food, beverages, and entertainment for a wedding-sized guest list.

Once again, Paul came up with the perfect antidote for too much party. This time we are going to do all the miles.

Turns out, the distance between Paul’s house and Wintervale Ranch, location of the joint-birthday gala, is sixty miles. He suggested we ride our bikes to the party.

Count me in!

Pedaling from the biggest city in Minnesota to our country sanctuary is symbolic in more ways than just the mileage for me. Joining Paul for the journey is icing on the cake.

It is a precious treat to be sharing the process of aging with a pal to whom you’ve been connected since grade school.

Happy Birthday to Paul (yesterday) and me (today)!

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Written by johnwhays

June 26, 2019 at 6:00 am

Driving North

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It has arrived! Today is the day of departure for this year’s Tour of Minnesota biking and camping adventure. I might almost be ready to go by the time I plan to leave the house. Really, the only thing left to do is overlook something I had intended to bring and leave without it.

Just to add a little drama to my packing and planning, the temperatures up north dropped into the 30s Wednesday night. Do I pack another layer of warm clothes? I added one extra overshirt. In addition to my wool hat, chopper mittens, Sorel boots, and North Face parka.

I’m ready.

I mowed the lawn last night, cutting a notch lower than usual in hope of buying me the full week until it needs to be cut it again. I programmed my work email with an away message. Can’t think of anything else.

I tried to tell Pequenita that I would be gone for a while, but would return. I doubt she comprehends my warning. Poor Cyndie will be a victim of that cat’s angst over my absence. On the other hand, I will relish the absence of wet-nosed cat head-bumps bashing into my face at too-early-o’clock in the morning.

As the sun was getting low enough that the back pasture of chest-high grass was cast in shadow, I came around the bend on the mower and spotted a deer leaping in reaction to my sudden appearance. Behind those big leaps was an almost invisible fawn whose head didn’t clear the tall grass as it struggled to keep up with mamma.

I sure hope they don’t decide to bed down in that field when our neighbors show up to cut hay.

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Written by johnwhays

June 14, 2019 at 6:00 am